FOXBORO -- Now that we know Dion Lewis has a torn ACL and won't be available for the remainder of the season, the next question is, what do the Patriots do now?
The diminutive but explosive back was the team's third leading receiver behind tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Julian Edelman. He was also the team's leading back in terms of offensive snaps, seeing 302 total plays compared to LeGarrette Blount's 168.
More than a third-down back, Lewis had the ability to run between the tackles as well as thrive in a scheme that likes to spread defenses out and attack through the air.
"He's an x-factor for our offense," said receiver Danny Amendola, "and he creates so many different mismatches with linebackers and safeties that it's hard to match up against him."
There is no player on the Patriots roster who can replicate Lewis' short-area quickness and all-around ability, but second-year running back James White could be the player the team turns to with Lewis out.
"Somebody has to pick up the slack," White said on Monday. "He's been producing very well for us. Whether it's me, or Brandon [Bolden], or [LeGarrette Blount], we have to step in and do whatever we can to help this team."
White made it clear, however, that whoever steps in to help fill the void will provide an element to the Patriots offense that is all his own. What Lewis provided in terms of his skill set is rare and unique to him.
"You just gotta be yourself," White said. "You can't be Superman and do exactly what he was doing. I'm doing whatever I can. My role may be different than what his role is, you never know. Whatever I have to do, I'm going to do it."
White saw 43 snaps in Week 7 against the Jets when Lewis missed the game with an abdominal injury. In a game plan that almost entirely eschewed the running game -- the Patriots handed off only five times total -- White caught three of five targets for 26 yards. He also had one drop, but he showed some elusiveness with the ball in his hands, and according to Pro Football Focus, he made three would-be tacklers miss.
As a blocker the second-year back out of Wisconsin was sound, staying in to pass protect 15 times and not allowing a single quarterback pressure.
"I'm always focused on that," White said. "We all are. We know in order to be on the field, you've gotta protect the quarterback. Whenever that opportunity comes up in the game, you gotta make sure you get no pressure the quarterback."
Whether it's White, Bolden or someone else, Lewis' injury has left an opening. Now it's just up to someone to take it.
"It just means it's a great opportunity for somebody to step up and make plays," Amendola said. "There's a role there that needs to be filled. I'm sure we'll have the next guy try to step up."